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Chamber Players perform with zest, charm

One of the attractions of the programs by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players is that the musicians often play appealing music you are unlikely to hear anywhere else.

This is a result of the unusual instrumentation of the ensemble which comprises all the principal players of the BSO, with guests added as needed. BSO music director Erich Leinsdorf founded the group 40 years ago, with the hope of providing pleasure to players and audience, and of furthering a chamber-music dynamic within the orchestra. The only member of the original ensemble still active in the group is principal cellist Jules Eskin, who joined the orchestra the year the chamber group was formed. Eskin participated in all but one of the pieces in yesterday afternoon's concert, and he is still playing well -- he made a particularly lively contribution to Dvorak's Serenade in D-Minor.

The program mostly featured light music, scored for uncommon combinations of instruments. Light music is by no means easier to play than the most serious works; often the technical demands of light music are steeper. Dvorak framed the program: the Serenade at the end, a set of Bagatelles for two violins, cello, and harmonium at the beginning. The Serenade is the more substantial piece, but Dvorak lavished on the Bagatelles the kind of captivating tunes and rhythms that another composer would have hoarded for a more prominent occasion. Violinists Malcolm Lowe and Haldan Martinson joined Eskin for these, with Vytas Baksys filling in the harmonies at the harmonium. The Serenade calls for 10 winds and two strings, an even dozen players which the group fielded; it also calls for zest, charm, and generosity of feeling, and those were available, too.

In the middle came works by Bohuslav Martinu and the late Robert Starer. Martinu's "Kitchen Revue" comes from a ballet score about the challenged romance between Pot and Lid. The music is a cheeky, cosmopolitan European take on popular dance crazes from the New World, like the tango and the Charleston. The Chamber Players offered Starer's "Concerto a tre," for clarinet, trumpet, and trombone, in the composer's chamber-music adaptation with piano instead of orchestra. The piece is brisk and craftsmanlike; the clarinet gambols around the more straightforward trumpet and trombone. The engaging players were Charles Schlueter, trumpet, and Ronald Barron, trombone, with Baksys hopscotching all over the keyboard.

The group's next concert is a high-profile Symphony Hall event Nov. 14, featuring Mozart's Quintet for piano and winds and Schubert's "Trout" Quintet. At the piano will be the BSO's new music director, James Levine.

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